This week the poems and novel we read focused on the essence of what it means to be human and the consequences that can occur when humans take the creation of life into our own hands. Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric” illustrates all of the qualities that add up to make us human beings. His other poem “One’s-Self I Sing” demonstrates the essence of the soul in individuals. Also, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein shows the destruction of a man who decides to play God and take the creation of life into his own hands. These three works demonstrate that there are numerous aspects that when joined together define human life.
“I Sing the Body Electric” lists all of the body parts of a human being and their functions. For example the author uses the phrase “food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep walking, swimming” to illustrate the complexity of the human body (26). These words and descriptions are used to show that there are a multitude of complexities that make up a human. Reading this poem, it seemed to me that it was a celebration that every individual is unique even though structurally, we are very similar. The author by the end of the poem, ties in the soul and how it relates to the rest of the body. He states “O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul” to demonstrate that the list of characteristics that make us who we are also affect if we are a good or bad person (35). How we live our lives determines if we as humans are going to live down a morally good path, or choose to allow evil to succumb in their lives.
Walt Whitman’s second poem, “One’s-Self I Sing” allows me to further understand the meaning of his first poem. Structurally, each line in the poem have a different length---which illustrates the concept that each individual in this world is distinctive. Also, he utilizes specific phrases such as “of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power/ cheerful, for freest action formed under the laws divine” to further the idea of the complexity of mankind (7-8). This example illustrates that our reactions and how we view the world influences the type of person we are in the world. Either we choose to make a difference in our surroundings, or we choose to be self-centered and look out for ourselves. This poem, as well as the first poem, both illustrate the importance of individuality and how the aspects of human nature help us either act for good purposes or bad.
Frankenstein, on the other hand, illustrates the dangers of what happens when individuals take valuable aspects, such as the creation of life, into their own hands. By “playing God” the scientist creates a monster and ends up causing the death of his mother, brother, wife, and father. By being so self-centered in the field of science and his drive to make a discovery in the world, he ends up creating a life full of sorrow and regret for the main character. Greed and power drove Victor Frankenstein to his end because he was so focused on creating the monster that he had no thoughts of the repercussions of his actions. The two poems also remind me of the differences with the main character and his friend Henry. Although both men were fascinated by science, Victor’s passion for the subject led to his demise while his friend was content by the studies of science offered by the university that both men attended. Overall, this novel illustrates the dangers of taking life in one’s own hands and how there is uniqueness in all individuals, especially in the main character and his best friend, as well as the monster himself.
These works illustrate the essence of what it means to be human. In my opinion, the poems and especially the novel show the importance of curiosity and passion on the soul of an individual. Reading these poems, it made me think of my service learning at Guilford. Although it is not the case with all of the students there, some of them are really interested in doing well in school as well as learning for the sake of learning. The week before Spring Break, I tutored a girl on history. We had a sheet of facts she had to learn and she was so determined to get each and every one of them right. Helping her learn the facts made me felt that I was making a positive difference not only in her life, but my own too. What makes life interesting is that we are all different, some of us lead life of purpose while others are inclined to create destruction in our world.